Meetings can waste a lot of time if not conducted efficiently and with a clear goal in mind. So, how should a small business ensure that every meeting maximises the time spent away from the day job?
Clarity of purpose
Before you go ahead an organise yet another meeting, stop and consider what the ultimate aim is. The most successful meetings have a clear, direct purpose that everyone involved understands and is working towards.
If you receive a meeting request and it’s unclear why you’ve bene invited, and what part you’re expected to play, then decline it. The instigator with either agree that your presence is not, in fact, required, or will communicate directly with you about expectations.
Similarly, the structure of the meeting should be clearly laid out. This includes exactly how the time will be used and who is expected to contribute.
Create a roadmap
Written agendas may not be the first thing on everyone’s mind when they call a meeting, but participants do need some kind of roadmap before attending. A list with a few subjects on it isn’t enough. For example, if you include Q4 Budget as an item on your agenda, it could be interpreted in a number of different ways by participants. This means they could bring useless information and be unprepared for the real discussion that needs to be had.
By adding enough detail at this stage, you can ensure that everyone will get the most out of the meeting by being able to participate properly.
Length of meeting
The length of the meeting should depend on the required outcome. Every outcome will need a different range of people to attend, which will alter the duration. Keeping the number of attendees at the minimum need to achieve the outcome you want is the best idea.
While it’s possible to organise a meeting of an entire organisation, this is rarely as valuable as a pared down meeting. This is because it’s almost impossible to make it valuable and engaging for everyone, without a huge amount of organisation.
Don’t underestimate the time it should take to prepare for a meeting to make sure it runs smoothly and to time. The work must be done up front, as neglecting to do so can end up wasting the time of a number of colleagues, and therefore output. If you spend two hours preparing for a team meeting, it is time well spent if it means the meeting can be kept down to 15 minutes.
Our advice is to work out the least amount of time in which you can gain effective results. Agile business meetings, first pioneered in tech companies, can lead to fast, efficient results. However, it’s not enough to just make them shorter. They must be structured appropriately so that everything can be slotted in.
By sticking to a certain formula, it’s possible to reduce the time from 60 minutes to 15:
- Welcome – include a quick check on how people are feeling about the project – 2 mins
- Good news – only people with specific good news speak – 3 mins
- Bad news – only people with reports of something undesirable but important speak – 3 mins
- New Information – neutral news from specific people, no presentations – 3 mins
- Suggestions – quick share of thoughts and ideas for consideration – 2 minutes
- Close – actions and follow up conversations – 2 mins
In this context, ‘news’ is critical. People only share new information, which saves time. There is no time spent on going over old news and no chance for repetition. It may seem that this micro-meeting just creates the need for another meeting, and while it does need a follow up, that would be equally as efficient and very focused.
Focus and structure
Meeting leaders or moderators must ensure that ideas or action points that arise from meetings are followed up. This means maintaining focus and concentrating on structure.
The first step is listing all of the ideas. Next, investigate which of the ideas are the most useful and what can be done to action them. Finally, assign tasks to individuals along with a deadline for completion.
Believe it or not, the set up and seating arrangement of the meeting can affect efficiency and collaboration. Think about how the meeting environment you choose could affect the meeting.
Informality encourages creativity, so ditch the traditional boardroom layout if you can. It’s also worth thinking about visual aids and how they might help. Could paper and a pen on the wall be more interactive, and therefore useful, than a video presentation?
Meetings, by their very nature, take time and this is an extremely valuable resource for a small business. When considering how to best use this time, the most important aspect to consider is who really needs to be there.
Follow these tips and you will be maximising the efficiency of your meetings and ensuring that actions are taken sooner rather than later.
About Juerg Widmer Probst
Jurg Widmer Probst is a seasoned entrepreneur, small business adviser and award-winning public speaker. He also blogs regularly on his website https://jurgwidmer.ch.